Bohemian Rhapsody

Posted on November 1, 2018 at 5:30 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Medical issues, sad death
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: November 1, 2018

Copyright 20th Century Fox 2018
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a just-good movie with a great performance based on the life of a once-to-a-planet musician of endless talent and magnetism and a four-octave range of unmatched clarity and suppleness. In other words, it is entertaining, if not illuminating. Indeed, it is strange that a movie about fictional rock and pop stars, the 2018 version of “A Star is Born” is more insightful about what it is like to perform at that level than this movie based on the life of Freddie Mercury, the brilliantly genre-bending front man of power rock band Queen.

Musician biopics have a huge advantage over movies telling the life stories of writers, visual artists, and other public figures. It is, of course, the music. Whether the movie is highly fictionalized with Cary Grant as Cole Porter or Mickey Rooney as Lorenz Hart, in films that pretended they were not gay, or more honest, like Oscar winners Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn and Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, the highlight of the films will always be the music that made the real-life characters stars. “Bohemian Rhapsody” has Queen’s rousing masterpieces and Rami Malek channels Mercury superbly, especially in those performance scenes, with a breathtaking re-creation of Queen’s legendary Live Aid performance in the film’s climactic scene.

The biggest risk in a biographical movie about a musician, though, is avoiding “VH1 Behind the Music”-itis. Unfortunately, real life for future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers does tend to follow the same pattern, and that is why we see the same scenes over and over. The family wants them to get a respectable job and not waste time on music. The early struggles. The recording session where someone in the control room says, “Wait a second, these guys have something special! Let me call my friend in the music business to sign them up.” The Vorkapich montage of tour dates to increasingly enthusiastic crowds. Yay, success! Yay, EXCESS! The squabbles. The industry executive who does not want them to be innovative (in this case, a sly meta-joke as he is portrayed by an unrecognizable Mike Meyers, whose iconic head-banging to the film’s title song in “Wayne’s World” created another generation of fans). The breakups. The reconciliation. It’s very hard to tell that story again and make it specific enough to stand out.

And then there is the other risk. Either the surviving members of the band are not involved, so you risk authenticity, or they do participate, as Brian May and Roger Taylor did here, so we see their version, which may be spun, even sanitized.

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara, to a Parsi family from the Zoroastrian community of the Indian subcontinent. We first see him in the film working as an airport baggage handler, being called by the (inaccurate) racist epithet “Paki.” Farroukh, already calling himself Freddie, is a fan of a popular local rock group called Smile. When their lead singer quits, he does an impromptu demonstration of his stunningly melodic voice, explaining that his overbite is caused by an extra set of incisors, which he credits for his range. The film then trudges through the steps outlined above.

The dramatic scenes are soapy and predictable — betrayed by a manager, estrangement from the band, too many cats, too many parties, learning that you can’t escape yourself, some reconciliation. Lucy Boynton (continuing her connection to 80’s music from “Sing Street”) is lovely as the ever-loyal Mary, who was Freddie’s closest friend, even after their romantic relationship ended because he was gay. The other band members barely register as individuals; more time is given to Myers’ stunt casting as the record industry guy who tells them that the six-minute “Bohemian Rhapsody” will never be played by teenagers in a car (get it? that’s what happens in “Wayne’s World!”). The “this is how we wrote that song” sections are especially weak. The songs themselves, though, are as captivating as ever and Malek, who struggles a bit with the overbite prosthetic, recreates them with all they buoyancy and flamboyance Freddie would want.

Parents should know that this film has the expected sex, drugs, and rock and roll in a story of a real-life rock star, with strong language, sexual references and non-explicit situations, and wild partying, along with medical issues and a sad death.

Family discussion: Who understood Freddie best? Why was Live Aid so important to him?

If you like this, try: the documentary “The Story of Queen: Mercury Rising” and YouTube clips of the Live Aid performance

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New from Raffi: Dog on the Floor

Posted on July 24, 2018 at 8:00 am

Copyright 2018 Rounder
It’s always great news when there’s a new CD from Raffi, the beloved troubadour whose music has delighted families for decades, making him the perennial best-selling children’s entertainer. On July 27, 2018, Raffi’s 25th album will be released, with 15 new songs.

Raffi, who turns 70 this summer, recorded the music in his home, inspired by his dog Luna, who is the subject of three of the new songs. You can see him on tour and follow him on Twitter. He is working towards a September 2018 launch of an online course in Child Honouring-an original philosophy for redesigning society for the greatest good by meeting the universal needs of the very young. He works on behalf of children and their families in a variety of initiatives, including the Center for Partnership Studies, the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, and the Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development, and he is the recipient of the Order of Canada and the United Nations’ Earth Achievement Award.

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My New Favorite Cry: You Sang My Song

Posted on July 9, 2018 at 9:51 am

Please check out You Sang My Song on Facebook. Glamour asked top recording artists like Maria Carey, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Shawn Mendes, and Meghan Trainor to watch YouTube covers of their songs. The only thing more touching than seeing these platinum singer-songwriters appreciate their fans (many of them say, “She sang it better than I do!”) is seeing the reaction of the YouTube singers to the comments from their favorite performers. It’s a remarkable moment because they stop being superstar to fan and become singer/musician to singer/musician, a deep and intimate connection. It’s wonderful.

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Trailer: America’s Musical Journey with Morgan Freeman

Posted on January 25, 2018 at 6:18 pm

Morgan Freeman narrates “America’s Musical Journey,” a 3D documentary exploring the story of American jazz, blues, country, rock, and more.

Grammy Award®-nominated singer and songwriter Aloe Blacc traces the roots of America’s music, following the footsteps of Louis Armstrong through the colorful locales and cultures where America’s music was born. Moving through such iconic cityscapes as New Orleans, Chicago, New York City, Nashville, Memphis, Miami and more, America’s Musical Journey explores the collision of cultures that gave birth to such American art forms as jazz, the blues, country, rock and roll, hip-hop and more.

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